Betsy Swanback

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Douglas County Museum moving archives into digital age

Films and audio recordings of loggers, reminiscing pioneers and the aftermath of the Roseburg Blast will be transferred to digital formats to preserve history and make the archives more accessible.

The Douglas County Museum received a $3,530 grant from the Whipple Foundation Fund to convert 100 to 200 of the museum’s 600 cassette tapes to CDs, research librarian Karen Bratton said. The museum also will transfer approximately 5,500 feet of 16-mm and 8-mm film to DVDs.

“It’s a great resource for people to come in and see what Douglas County life was like in the 1930s and 1940s,” Bratton said.

Absolute Sound and Music of Roseburg will convert the tapes and film.

Old cassette tapes and film are vulnerable to aging. Shawna Gandy, library technical services manager with the Oregon Historical Society in Portland, said museums have been converting their collections since the early 1990s.

Museums often started with digitizing photographs and documents and are slowly moving onto audio tapes and film, she said.

“You can lose those oral histories unless you move them onto something else,” she said.

Bratton said people across the country have requested films, but the museum did not have the format to share them.

“This is such an outdated mode of communication,” she said. “Now we’ll be able to utilize them around the museum.”

Selling copies of the DVDs will generate revenue for the museum, she said.

The videos will play on TVs during an upcoming exhibit titled, “A forest at work, a forest at play,” about the history of the Douglas County timber industry.

“It’s just really fun to be part of upgrading and making it more user friendly,” Bratton said.

The museum is applying for other grants to convert more archives to a digital format.

The museum recently received a $7,500 donation from Lance and Lola Short to buy a new microfilm reader.

The county is also upgrading the computers soon, Bratton said.

“Then, I’m in good shape as far as technology goes,” she said.

• You can reach reporter Betsy Swanback at 541-957-4208 or

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The News-Review Updated Jun 24, 2014 12:06PM Published Jun 26, 2014 04:27PM Copyright 2014 The News-Review. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.